We’ve teamed up with Bridgestone to bring you a series of incredible routes through the UK that explore the rich and impressive engineering history of our little island.
In the last two issues of Adventure Bike Rider, we’ve teamed up with Bridgestone and detailed a series of routes which take in Britain’s best and most interesting road bridges. The rides were designed to welcome the launch of the new Battlax A41 Adventure tyres, and we’ve had them fitted on our V-Strom since January.
What might have, at first, seemed like a novelty (Bridges and Bridgestone, right?) quickly showed itself to be an inspired way to explore areas of the UK that we might have initially overlooked. Our first ride took us from Clifton, Bristol, all the way up the length of Wales to Froncysyllte, while the second saw us follow the River Thames from sea to source.
For our third and final act, we’ve plotted out a monstrous 424-mile route from Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire, all the way north to Stirling, central Scotland.
Along the way we’ll take in the North York Moors, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Northumberland National Park, and the Cheviot Hills on a variety of roads from fast, sweeping A-roads to the 12-mile long gravel track of Kielder Forest Drive.
If you want to make the most of this journey, plan to do it over a long weekend so that you can take your time and explore some of the fascinating places along the way, like the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the city of Stirling.
Head to the start of the route on a Friday evening after work and book yourself into one of the many hotels around Barton-upon-Humber and Hull, and you’ll be in prime position to get a full day’s ride in on Saturday.
An overnight stop mid-way through the route then gives you plenty of time to finish the journey on Sunday, before beginning your trek home to be back in time for work on Monday morning.
However you decide to do it, this 424-mile long route takes in nearly every type of road you could imagine, starting with some quiet country roads on the way to Stamford Bridge.
Of course, I’m not talking about Chelsea FC’s stadium, but the small village just to the east of York which sits on the site of the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
It was here where Harold Godwinson, King of England, defeated his brother Tostig and Harald Hardrada in 1066, before marching to Hastings on the south coast to try and repel the Norman invasion (and we know how that ended).
There are many reminders of the battle as you walk around Stamford Bridge, but you won’t want to stay for too long, because the lonely roads and epic views of the North York Moors are waiting. I love riding on the Moors, and if you’re feeling peckish grab some fish and chips from Whitby before heading along the coast to the remarkably picturesque seaside village of Staithes.
The riding throughout the whole North York Moors section of this route is excellent, though as we enter the city of Middlesbrough you’ll have to contend with the busiest roads of the journey to visit the Tees Transporter Bridge.
The busy, urban roads of Middlesbrough are soon forgotten as you head into the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the B6278 provides you with the perfect opportunity to enjoy some wide-open bends and exciting riding. It must be said, there’s not really a single ‘bad’ road from Middleton-in-Teesdale for the remainder of this route, and the further north you get the more exciting the riding becomes.
Kielder Forest Drive offers the chance to ride a 12-mile long gravel track through the wilderness of Kielder Forest, before the fast-flowing A68 twists and turns over the Scottish border.
We eventually come to an end at Stirling, and while the riding isn’t the most thrilling, the views as you arrive are outstanding. The Wallace Monument dominates the skyline for miles in all directions, offering a touching tribute to a Scottish hero, while the imposing Stirling Castle stands formidably in your path.
1. Humber Bridge
We begin our route in the shadow of the mighty Humber Bridge which, at 2,220m long, is the eighth longest single-span suspension bridge in the world. From Barton-upon-Humber, there’s a car park almost underneath the bridge, allowing you to have a quick sit down where you can ponder the complexities of life.
In the distance you can just about make out the city of Hull. Riding over the bridge is a wonderful experience, with unrestricted views being afforded both to your left and right, and best of all, while there’s a £1.50 charge to cross it, it doesn’t apply to motorcycles. From here we head north through the countryside before entering the hauntingly beautiful North York Moors.
2. Tees Transporter Bridge
After the joys of the North York Moors we arrive in Middlesbrough, and the city’s industrial heritage is clear to see from the moment you lay eyes on it. One particular structure stands out, and that’s the hulking steel figure of the Tees Transporter Bridge.
Built in 1911 to provide a means of crossing the river Tees which wouldn’t impact shipping, the Transporter Bridge is the longest of its kind still operating in the world. It works by moving a gondola, which is suspended from the bridge, across the river, with crossings taking 90 seconds and costing £1.30.
I couldn’t help but be amazed by the thing as we approached, with it sticking out from the low lying area that surrounds it, though I didn’t actually get to ride it as it’s closed on Sundays (find operating times at www.bit.ly/TeesBridge)!
3. Holy Island
Without a visit to Holy Island our route would finish not long after crossing the Scottish border, but that’d be dull! Instead, after the exciting ride up the A68 to the picturesque town of Jedburgh (where you’ll find Mary, Queen of Scots’ old house) we head east through the Cheviot Hills before dipping back into England.
The reason for this detour, as pleasant as it is, is to visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on the Northumberland coast.
This remarkable tidal island can only be accessed by a paved causeway (OK, it’s not technically a bridge) that’s submerged by the North Sea twice in every 24-hour period. Holy Island has a very interesting history, including a Viking raid that is said to have ushered in the start of the Viking Age.
The island is an interesting place to explore for a few hours, though make sure you check tide tables before you visit to avoid getting stranded by the North Sea (www.lindisfarne.org.uk).
4. Queensferry crossing
If you like bridges then you’ll love the Firth of Forth (and if you don’t like bridges, then you’re probably riding the wrong route). Between Edinburgh and Fife, you’ll find three monstrous structures in the form of the Forth Road Bridge, the Forth Bridge, and the Queensferry Crossing.
Our route will take you over the Queensferry Crossing, which carries the M90 motorway over the firth (finally, an interesting motorway ride), and was officially opened in 2017. From the impressive bridge, which is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world, the views of the Forth Road Bridge and the iconic Forth Bridge (the rail bridge) are brilliant.
5. Stirling Bridge
Just a few miles upstream of the Queensferry Crossing, we reach the end of our epic journey at Stirling Bridge. Stirling is a beautiful city with a number of incredible landmarks (the Wallace Monument and the imposing Stirling Castle being two of them) and there are three bridges (only two of which you can ride over).
Our journey comes to a halt at Old Stirling Bridge (naturally, the one you can’t ride over), a medieval stone arch bridge which crosses the River Forth. The bridge in its current state is thought to be around 500-600 years old, though it’s what happened only a hundred or so yards away from it that’s the biggest draw.
It was here that Sir William Wallace and Sir Andrew Moray defeated the English army at the brutal Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.
Kielder Forest Drive
While the theme of this ride is bridges, we couldn’t possibly ride through Northumberland without tackling the Kielder Forest Drive. This 12-mile long gravel road is about as close as you can get to riding USstyle logging trails in England.
It’ll take you from Kielder Castle in the west to Blakehopeburnhaugh, directly off the A68, in the east, taking you right through the heart of the man-made Kielder Forest.
The track is easily doable on any bike, and is one of England’s highest roads, reaching altitudes of about 450m.
The scenery along the way, along with the feeling of being out in the wilderness, makes for an incredible and unforgettable adventure.
The Kielder Forest Drive is a toll road, costing £3 to ride, payable at the western entrance to the road.
We collaborated with Bridgestone to create this series of routes to announce the launch of the company’s new adventure tyre, the Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41.
The adventure bike specific A41 takes over from the excellent A40 and offers improved grip in all conditions, especially in the wet. It also comes with better handling in corners and maintains the long-lasting tradition of the A40.
We’ve had the A40s fitted to our longterm V-Strom 1000 since January of this year, on which we’ve covered over 2,500 miles both solo and with a pillion, plus we’ve been on launches in a rain-soaked Spain and checked them out both on and off-road in dry conditions in Morocco. We can sum up the performance in all of the above conditions in one word – superb.